I have learned to speak English with a British accent and for that reason this discussion is aimed at native British speakers, but anyone with something relevant to contribute with is welcome.
I’m interested in knowing how British English speakers perceive certain words spoken in isolation with no context to help them understand which word it is. The words I’m interested in are words in word pairs like hot/hut, where the only difference in pronunciation is the vowel sound, which is either an “ɒ” or “ʌ” (when using the IPA symbols).
I have no difficulty determining which word is which in context, but I feel that the pronunciation of those vowel sounds vary quite a lot between individual speakers, so if I hear one of those words in isolation I feel there are times when they can be mistaken, including when I pronounce them myself. Is this just because my brain still has something to learn about the nuances of English vowel sounds or are there native speakers of British English who feel the same way?
Other similar word pairs are:
body /ˈbɒdi/ vs buddy /ˈbʌdi/
golf /ɡɒlf vs gulf /ɡʌlf/
cough /kɒf/ vs cuff /kʌf/
I can't say I have any difficulty distinguishing them when said individually, regardless of the speaker's accent. It's instantly obvious which one is which to me.
And given the difference in pronunciation is the same for all these words (the difference between the 'o' and 'u' vowel sounds) it does make me think that, yes, it's more likely that you are still getting to grips with the nuances in the pronunciation.
Audio Recording Tip:
Always make sure that your microphone is 'turned on'... shame on me for not checking before making my recording.
This time my microphone was 'on' :)
I thought you might like to hear the Canadian pronunciation of the words in your list.
I pronounced each word pair twice, e.g., hot/hut hot/hut
Here are the words that I recorded:
hot / hut
body / buddy
golf / gulf
cough / cuff
dog / dug
gone / gun
luck / lock
not / nut
long / lung
And here is the recording (paste the link into your browser):
If others want to record this list, they may make a recording at: http://vocaroo.com/
Thanks a lot for your comments! From what you all have written it seems quite clear to me that I need to spend more time on getting to grips with the sounds "ɒ" and "ʌ".
Sarah: Words like "bee" and "be" are called "homophones"